Life in the fast lane. That is where we are. We don’t have conversations any more we have tweets. If you can’t communicate in less than 140 characters, no one is listening. Only the first 5 lines of emails are getting read. Voice mails are being translated into text messages loosing all the vocal intent of the message.
We, as a society are loosing the the ability to really communicate. We are not getting deeper into matters that have meaning. We simply exist every day and do our very best to “stay in the middle”. We work really hard at being alone while we are surrounded by what we think are thousands of e-friends.
This is all compounded by the overload factor. We are so good at collecting data that it is turning into garbage. Myself, I sometimes feel like the garbage recycler when I open my email. It is delete, recycle to someone else, forward on, or set on the counter for later action. We want to be sure that our message is heard, so we try to compete in the message garbage stream. If one message is good, than 3 is better and it better have all of the information in the first 140 characters, because that is all that will be read.
How does all of this make you feel?
Do you feel alone while surrounded by thousands? Do you feel closer to people who you simply have asynchronous dialogs with every day via “chat”? Do you feel sometimes that your friends and family just want you to “get to the point” so they can get to their point?
Are you gaining knowledge and understanding from this constant stream of non communications? When did you last feel that you have had a breakthrough learning moment? Was it when you read that incredible email or had a face to face conversation in a relaxed atmosphere?
Think for a moment, when was your last ah-ha moment? Who were you talking to via what communication tool? Did you feel the conversation? Did you experience empathy and share emotions? Did you come out with a deeper understanding of the person, problem or situation? Did new ideas come to you that would have never surfaced otherwise?
Is there a chance we can turn this around? Will the next generation be communicating in 60 characters or less? Will we forget about the human side of life? Will we totally loose the human side of communications?
What can you do?
Turn life around. Make time for personal interactions with conversations that go deeper. Create opportunities for true conversations. Ask questions that begin with why, how, why, or which. Avoid questions that can be simply answered with a yes or no. Take time to explore relationships by creating dialogs around opportunities. Embrace this with your friends, co-workers and family.
Start off your conversations by confirming all participants are actually in the same conversation. Ask simple questions that have simple answers, that begin with what. Examples might be, what are you working on, what happened in your day today, or what headlines did you see today? These are all easy questions that require more than a yes or no answer. They have no right or wrong answer, they are simply stating the facts.
After you have “grounded” the beginning you may want to ask how they feel about the situation you are discussing. How did this headline make you feel, what projects are giving you the most anguish, what projects are you looking forward to the most or what stood out for you as the highlight of your day?
Having set the foundation and gotten the emotional connections clarified, next would be to ask questions about what the real intent of the situation is. A question may be something like, Why do you think your friend did that, what changes would you recommend to the projects, what does this mean for our business or friendship, or why are you interested in this project? These types of questions allow you to understand the implication that is felt by the situation at hand. If you understand the situation, the feeling on the situation, and proposed implications, then you can take decisive planned actions.
To wrap up the conversation, you may ask a question like, What do you think we should do now, what should we do next, what followup will help you, what advice would you give considering the situation?
This type of conversation leads to a non threatening, understanding and deeper relationships whether it is co-workers, friends, or family.
What would happen if we all started communicating like this at work, play, and home. What would happen if the government worked this way? Would your legislators ask questions like, What is in this bill, how will it affect people, what is the real intent and what should we do next?
We can all take this opportunity to begin our own journey into deepening our conversations, our understanding and our successes in life. I challenge each of you to make the time for deeper, more fulfilling conversations that enhance our lives and learning.
If you would like to learn more about this type of “Focused Conversation”, I encourage you to seek out a Technology of Participation Facilitation Methods class.